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Understanding Summer Learning Loss and Covid-19 Learning Loss, and How You Can Help Your Child

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Over the summer, students lose up to a month's worth of academic learning, a phenomenon known as summer learning loss.

Holistic education goes beyond the four walls of a classroom. But it is also true that academic achievement and formation from learning institutions give students a significant advantage. It is one of the reasons parents invest a considerable chunk of their time and resources to provide their children with the best learning opportunities. Educators continue to explore new educational techniques and technologies to keep up with the changing needs of students and ensure dynamic learning. But over the years, studies have shown that despite the progress made by students during the school year, plenty of them are still susceptible to summer learning loss.

What is Summer Learning Loss?

During the summer or extended breaks from school, students lose up to one month’s worth of academic learning on average. This phenomenon is known as the summer slide or summer learning loss. A closer look at these studies shows that most of the decline is in subjects like mathematics and reading. Particularly, students at higher grade levels tend to suffer more significant losses. Meanwhile, gaps in reading are more evident among lower-income students.

In recent years, a more in-depth look at summer learning loss has produced mixed results. Particularly, when it comes to the extent of loss in grade levels, socioeconomic status, and geography. Still, the data is enough to worry parents and educators alike.

The 2015 NWEA RIT Scale Norms Study, in particular, reports a trend that causes much concern among educators. In this study, the researchers reported on the extent of learning loss between third and eighth-grade students. Results show a 20 percent loss of school-year gains in reading and 27 percent in math in the summer following third grade.

For seventh grade students, these numbers are even higher: 36 percent in reading and 50 percent in math. This shows a significant spike in summer learning loss as students grow older and go from elementary to middle school.

To prevent this decline, parents and educators rely on summer programs to aid and enable continuous learning for children. As such, there is a demand for high-quality learning programs. Especially ones that mix formal lessons with recreational, outdoor, and hands-on activities.

But most of these programs are no longer viable as the coronavirus pandemic forces the world to a pause. Even more troubling, as school closures cut the school year short, students, parents, and teachers now face a bigger challenge: Covid-19 learning loss.

Initial estimates of Covid-19 learning loss reveal that students may lose up to 70 percent of school-year gains in reading and 50 percent in math.

Understanding Covid-19 Learning Loss

Most of the existing data on summer learning loss also apply to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on education. But for some, factors unique to the crisis have made the impact more severe. According to an article by Le Thu Huong, program specialist at the Education Policy Section, UNESCO, and Teerada Na Jatturas, digital communications expert and UNESCO intern, Covid-19 learning loss can threaten students because of reduced and unequal levels of learning and a higher tendency to drop out.

By not being able to attend school, students have no choice but to continue their studies at home. In doing so, it creates a disparity in the type and level of learning a child can get. Studying at home is affected by access to a suitable learning space and other resources. Not to mention, the parents’ availability to support and teach their child. These also happen to be some of the major factors that bring about summer learning loss.

Delays and learning gaps can also occur as home-based learning relies heavily on digital access. Something that is not always available to plenty of students.

The extended absence, lack of classroom interaction, and learning disruption are particularly concerning for at-risk students. As these might eventually encourage them to drop out of school.

In April 2020, the NWEA released a study on the potential impact of school closures due to Covid-19. Initial estimates of Covid-19 learning loss reveal that students may lose up to 70 percent of school-year gains in reading by the time school resumes in the fall. For mathematics, research shows that students could go back to school with less than 50 percent of the usual learning gains. In some grade levels, students could lose almost a full year of typical subject knowledge.

Combating Summer Learning Loss and Covid-19 Learning Loss

Despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic on the well-being, safety, and academic goals of each student, concerned government agencies, organizations, and educators continue to work with parents and families in ensuring learning continuity.

With over 1.2 billion students directly affected by the pandemic, UNESCO has recently launched the Global Education Coalition. The initiative aims to provide and encourage inclusive learning opportunities by focusing on remote or distance learning programs.

Additionally, traditional solutions previously adapted to counter summer learning loss can also be applied to address the learning decline during the Covid-19 pandemic. These include creating programs with an evidence-based curriculum and blend academic learning with extra-curricular activities.

To help students without Internet access, the Center for Global Development (CGD) suggests supplementing online learning with the use of radio, television, and SMS. Schools must also provide a way for families to receive or pick up necessary learning materials.

The CGD also stresses the importance of family involvement and supplementing the focused learning provided by schools. This supplemental learning can come in the form of private tutoring to meet each child’s unique academic goals and the needs and learning styles of each family.

Personalized private tutoring helps mitigate the effects of summer learning loss and Covid-19 learning loss.

How You Can Support Your Child

Providing your child or teen with the best support to prepare them for the new school year starts with finding the right professionals with a custom approach to tutoring. Themba Tutors and Brooklyn Letters are New York-based private tutoring companies that are fully committed to providing fun, individualized, and dynamic tutoring, coaching, and therapy sessions for children and teens.

Themba Tutors provides in-home services in New York City, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island, Westchester County, Fairfield County, Connecticut, and sections of New Jersey. They aim to foster educational success by providing accessible tutoring for all learners in their homes and schools.

Composed of traveling learning specialists, academic tutors, and executive function coaches that work one-on-one with students of all ages, they provide multidisciplinary and personalized services.

Brooklyn Letters offers in-home and online literacy (Orton-Gillingham Approach) and math tutoring services as well as speech, language, and feeding therapies in the New York City metro area seven days a week.

Brooklyn Letters believes in working closely with families and the importance of understanding their learning needs and styles in constructing the most effective support system for each child.

For more information, contact:

Themba Tutors

(917) 382-8641 / (201) 831-9848

[email protected]


Brooklyn Letters

(347) 394-3485

(917) 426-8880

Text: 917-426-8880

[email protected]

Brooklyn Letters